Nessa : 1977
Ericka: RM, alto sax. Nonaah: RM, Joseph Jarman, Wallace McMillan, Henry Threadgill, alto saxes.
Dest:OUT is thrilled to present a sampling from from one of the key reissues of the year: Roscoe Mitchell’s seminal solo joint Nonaah. Out of print for decades and never on CD, the tapes have finally been remastered for better sound and five previously unreleased tracks have been added to the original album’s already impressive sprawl. Thanks to Chuck Nessa for providing the above tracks for your delectation. Thanks are also due Mr. Nessa for getting these sounds on wax to begin with.
Given the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s run of stellar records in the late ’60s through the 1970s, it’s only natural the collective work would eclipse any member’s solo efforts. Not enough folks were paying attention when Nonaah firmly announced Roscoe Mitchell as a formidable solo talent apart from the group. Featuring an all-star AACM cast, it showcases his music in a kaleidoscope of styles: solos, duos, alto sax quartets, and more. While the Art Ensemble’s torrid creative pace was starting to slow, Roscoe was ramping up and starting to embrace his own ideas and experiments, preparing in the next decade to virtually lap the group in terms of significant output.
“Ericka” is a stunning solo outing for Mitchell, highlighting his acerbic yet warm tone. The ballad starts out with a melody somewhere in the neighborhood of “My One and Only Love,” and then evolves into something much different. Building slowly, steadily from a clear articulation of the tune to an increasingly more burred and abrasive attack, Mitchell is in full control throughout, and gives the impression of a man playing exactly what he wants, where and when he wants to. The Willisau crowd erupts as the song reaches its climactic end.
Nessa noted when he wrote to us that he had sent the “slow movement” of the quartet version of “Nonaah,” about a third of the total track. It contains the RNA for the World Saxophone Quartet, whether or not this crew was a direct influence. The harmonies are both sweet and sour, the swing patient, the lines long and intertwined. It is over too soon.
You’ll feel the same about the whole album. If you have a decent sense of the aesthetic field being plowed here, and have some affinity for it, you will not want to miss this crucial document. Pick it up from Nessa himself (write to: info [At] nessarecords [Dot] com, PayPal welcomed, $23 in No. Amer.), or from your favorite record shop. (If you don’t have one, try Downtown Music Gallery, Jazz Loft, or Jazz Record Mart.) This Organissimo confab gives a lot of good info amid the well-earned encomiums for Mr. Nessa.
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Eagle-eyed readers (or those already familiar with the disc) will note Anthony Braxton’s name on the front cover the album above. Though Braxton doesn’t appear on the tracks we’ve posted, there are big Braxton doings afoot here at D:O, and we advise all Braxton fans to watch this space over the coming weeks.